A SELF TAUGHT FINE ARTIST CREATES WORK THAT’S FILLED WITH THE WARMTH OF NOSTALGIC REMEMBRANCE
BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
Choosing art as a career after a stint in the U.S. Army, Lloyd Garrison declared, “Was one of the luckiest decisions I made. It can be a bizarre business, though. If you are at a party and people go around telling what they do, many are surprised and conversation stops when I say I make a living as an artist. My style is realistic, but my subject matter is unlimited. I love both variety and challenge.”
Garrison’s art depicts the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, landscapes, still life, wildlife, portraits, and nautical and Western themes. Union County natives are particularly drawn to evocative scenes of his Rahway hometown.
“I was interested in drawing and painting as child,” Garrison reminisced. “My Colonial paintings were inspired by the fact that I’m the 11th generation in Rahway. My ancestors were innkeepers of the Terrill Tavern, as well as carriage and sled builders.” (The 1700s Terrill Tavern still stands at the corner of St. Georges and Grand Avenues, now part of the Merchants and Drovers Museum.)
“One of my proudest moments was in the Army at age 20, when I was assigned to paint murals and historical paintings for the officers club,” the artist recalled. “I was invited to the club’s celebration, where the commanding general of Ft. Lewis, Washington, promoted me to corporal.”
Garrison drew Gold Key comic books in the 1960s, which led to successful art shows in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and the opening of his first Lloyd’s Gallery in Rahway in 1968. He created two series of Bradford Exchange Dickens collector plates, as well as advertisements for Old Spice cologne, Finley Tea, Prudential Insurance, and murals at restaurants and Washington’s Crossing State Park. The FBI called in the 1980s, and he drew a crime scene for the agent who arrested electronics store maven “Crazy Eddie” Antar for racketeering in 1992. And that wasn’t Garrison’s only brush with fame.
“I went to see [the 1974 film] Death Wish, and was shocked to see my painting hanging on the wall in a scene where Charles Bronson goes to his son’s apartment,” Garrison explained.
“My wife didn’t believe me until she heard it from our customers.” When he drew for a popsicle company in Union, the firm commissioned Garrison to create the late comic Buddy Hackett’s face in a Norman Rockwellstyle portrait as a gift.
A second gallery on Broad Street in downtown Red Bank followed (with gifts and antiques added), run by the artist and his wife, Lori, until the couple sold that building in 2006. Garrison continues to paint at his Millstone home studio.
Among his most popular works are more than 45 nostalgic Christmas cards familiar scenes in Rahway, Linden, Cranford, and New York City. Cards featuring Linden’s iconic, long-gone mid-century burger joint, Walt’s, sold out quickly, and an entire series was dedicated to Red Bank scenes, including ice boating on the Navesink River and snow-covered street scenes.
“I first did cards for a company in the 1970s,” Garrison recalled. “It’s rare to see cards of your hometown. People get very excited about it, especially those who have moved away.” Realism, he said, is key. “Apples should look like apples, a puddle should look like a puddle. That’s the secret.”
In October, Garrison was working on a mid-century Halloween scene on Rahway’s Elm Street, “a celebration of pleasant times when it was still safe to go trick or treating without your parents.”
“Being an artist is a miracle, he mused. “You do something you hope people will like and that makes them happy, and hopefully they will buy it. It’s nice to get applause. Early on it was a lot of stress and hard work, but now I’m in the fun stage.” His current focus is on works featuring veterans.
“You can’t stop painting if you love it,” he said. “From the age of 6, there has been nothing I would rather do. Whether you are an actor, singer, musician, or artist we love our craft and will retire only when we can no longer perform.”
Call 609.918.1776 for appointment / lloydgarrison.com